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1 September 2021

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Florencia Soto Niño-Martinez, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Afghanistan/Secretary-General

Today, as you know, we have a guest.  But, first I would like to start off by mentioning the Secretary-General’s statement on Afghanistan, which we released yesterday, in which he expressed his grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country and the threat of basic services collapsing completely.  The Secretary-General called on all parties to facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving and life-sustaining supplies, as well as for all humanitarian workers — men and women.  He also urged all Member States to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need, and to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding.  And now we will hear from the UN’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov.  He is joining us today from Kabul to talk about the current situation in the country.  Welcome, Ramiz.

[The press briefing by Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, is not transcribed.  A video recording of the briefing is available at https://media.un.org/en/webtv/.]

And I will continue with the next part of the briefing, and I will brief you on a few things, and then there will be time for questions for me.

**Climate

So, today, on climate, a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today said weather-related disasters have increased five-fold and caused seven times more damage than in the 1970s.  Over the past 50 years, weather-related disasters have killed 115 people every day and caused some $202 million in losses daily.  However, improved early warnings and disaster management have meant that the number of deaths has decreased significantly from previous periods.  Over the past 50 years there were more than 11,000 reported disasters globally, with just over 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion in losses.  The report also says that more than 91 per cent of deaths occurred in developing countries and of the top 10 disasters, the hazards that led to the largest human losses during this period have been droughts, followed by storms, floods and extreme temperatures.  The full report is online.

**Ethiopia

Moving to Ethiopia.  Our colleagues tell us that the humanitarian situation in Tigray is worsening with stocks of relief aid, cash and fuel running very low or depleted.  Partners have run out of stocks for food distribution, with the exception of some areas where supplies had already been dispatched.  According to our colleagues, the only access route to Tigray, via Afar, using the Semera-Abala corridor, has been inaccessible since 22 August due to insecurity and bureaucratic and logistical challenges.  We estimate that 100 trucks of food, non-food items, and fuel need to enter Tigray every day to sustain an adequate response.  Since 12 July to date, less than 10 per cent of the required trucks have gone in.

In addition, a minimum of 200,000 litres of fuel is required for the humanitarian response every week.  But, since 12 July, only 282,000 litres have reached Tigray, and none since 16 August.  Our humanitarian colleagues also warn that the spillover of the conflict in Tigray into neighbouring Afar and Amhara continues to affect civilians resulting in food insecurity, displacement, and the disruption of livelihoods.  Some 1.7 million people are estimated to be facing food insecurity in those areas.  We stress that all parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate timely, unfettered, safe and sustained access to all people impacted by the crisis.

**Myanmar

Turning to Myanmar.  Our team there remains concerned by the humanitarian impact of the ongoing armed conflict and insecurity across various parts of the country.  Around 200,000 people have been displaced since 1 February.  The situation has worsened with the impact of monsoon floods, which affected around 125,000 people since July, particularly in the south-east, eastern and western parts of the country.  Our team and our partners are making efforts to reach around 3 million people in need with critical assistance and protection services, including a pandemic response.  For example, around 1.2 million people have received food and cash assistance since the beginning of the year.  Assistance across other sectors also continues in many parts of the country.  Our colleagues reiterate their earlier calls for everyone involved to facilitate safe and unimpeded access by humanitarian partners to scale up these efforts and reach everyone in need.  We reaffirm our commitment to continue delivering humanitarian assistance, protection services and COVID-19 related assistance in Myanmar, guided by the internationally recognized principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

**Central African Republic

And in the Central African Republic, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has taken note of the final results of the residual legislative elections of 25 July, proclaimed by the Constitutional Court.  This announcement marked the end of the 2020-21 legislative elections in the country, with 140 candidates elected to parliament, including 18 women.  The mission has provided support to this electoral process, including through security, in a context that, as you will recall, was marked by attacks in the capital, Bangui, and in the countryside.  MINUSCA is currently working with the authorities to begin preparations for local elections, which will be the first ones organized since 1988.  And our peacekeeping colleagues also responded to attacks by armed groups this week, particularly in the country’s west and centre.  And the UN police units continue their day and night patrols on the capital’s sensitive crossroads, and elsewhere.  The Mission said today that these patrols have contributed to a drop in crime in the capital, as well as in the country’s eastern region.

**Gaza/Qatar

And I just want to flag that in response to questions we have received, I can tell you that, on 19 August, the State of Qatar signed an agreement to provide $40 million, through the UN, in support of poor and vulnerable families in the Gaza Strip.  The allocated amount will be disbursed through a UN-implemented cash assistance programme to some 100,000 families in Gaza as a one-time payment every month for a period of four months.  As the programme is about to be rolled out, the Secretary General wishes to extend his appreciation to the State of Qatar for its generous contribution, noting that this will help improve the dire socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Gaza.  The UN will continue to work closely with the Palestinian Authority and partners to support reconstruction efforts in the region.

**COVAX

And I have a COVAX update for you.  Pakistan has received over 18 million vaccine doses since May and had 6 million more doses expected to arrive in September.  As of yesterday, more than 56 million doses have been administered.  Our team there, led by Resident Coordinator Julien Harneis, is continuing its support to the national response.  The World Health Organization (WHO) established three vaccination centres in Islamabad and provided medical, laboratory and protective equipment, including ambulances, 50 ventilators, 100 oxygen concentrators, 50 suction devices, 20 ECG machines and 50 automated beds.  For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided protective equipment to over 15,000 front‑line workers as well as over 3,000 oxygen concentrators and other equipment to the Government.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also donated 600,000 masks and ambulances and the UN Office for Project Services is providing medical and laboratory equipment for hospitals in three districts.

**New Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin

And you may have seen that earlier today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], the head of WHO, inaugurated a new WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, based in Berlin.  The Hub is part of the agency’s Health Emergencies Programme and will support the work of public health experts and policymakers in all countries.  It will aim to provide them with the tools needed to forecast, detect and assess epidemic and pandemic risks so they can take rapid decisions to prevent and respond to future public health emergencies.  Dr. Tedros said the work of the new hub will focus on data linkage and analysis, and on the ability to better detect and assess risks of disease events in their earliest stages before they amplify and cause death and societal disruption.  The hub is receiving an initial investment of $100 million from Germany.

**International Labour Organization/Report

In a new report, the International Labour Organization says that despite the unprecedented worldwide expansion of social protection during the pandemic, more than 4 billion people around the world remain entirely unprotected.  The World Social Protection Report finds that the pandemic response was uneven and insufficient, deepening the gap between countries with high‑ and low‑income levels and failing to provide the much-needed social protection that all human beings deserve.  Social protection includes access to health care and income security such as unemployment, sickness or disability leave.  ILO is calling for more investments and international solidarity to build better social protection systems.  And you can find the report online.

**Press Briefing

I want to flag that today, at 2 p.m., right here, there will be a briefing in this room by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ireland and President of the Security Council for this month.  And she will discuss the Council’s programme of work.

**Financial Contribution

And finally, we would like to thank our friends in the United Republic of  Tanzania for their contribution to the Regular Budget.  That brings us to 124 Member States who have paid their contributions in full.  And I think that's it from me.  I will take your questions now.  Any questions?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you very much.  So, given the report of… about shaping the new government by Taliban and so… it's about… there are no officials from previous government.  And so, what's about the question, the consideration of inclusive government given the fact that UN, the other agencies and international community calls for inclusive government?  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, is your question… I mean, I guess the Security Council made it very clear and the Secretary‑General also made it very clear in his statement yesterday that what we are expecting is to see an inclusive government.  And of course, we're waiting to see what will happen as the government has not yet been formed and… although we know that that's to be announced imminently following.  Any other questions?  Did Ramiz answer all your questions?  I'm very happy about that.  Any questions on the screen?  Okay.  Well, thank you so much, and Stéphane will see you tomorrow.

For information media. Not an official record.